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Factors Affecting Newspapers

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Journalism and Newspapers

Factors Affecting Newspapers

Newspapers and Control

Since 1896, The New York Times has printed the phrase “All the News That’s Fit to Print” as its masthead motto. The phrase itself seems innocent enough, and it has been published for such a long
time now that many probably skim over it without giving it a second thought.

The phrase represents an interesting phenomenon in the industry: Control.
Papers have long been criticized for the way stories are presented, yet newspapers continue to print.

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Accuracy

Despite the critiques of the newspaper industry and its control over information, the majority of newspapers and journalists take their roles seriously. Editors work with journalists to verify sources and to double-check facts so readers are provided accurate information.

In this way, the control that journalists and newspapers exert serves to benefit their readers, who can then be assured that articles printed, are correct.

Fabrication

Journalists are also expected to hold themselves to high standards of truth and originality. Fabrication and plagiarism are prohibited. If a journalist is caught using these tactics, then his or her career is likely to end for betraying the public’s trust and for damaging the publication’s reputation.

For example, The New York Times reporter Jayson Blair lost his job in 2003 when his plagiary and fabrication were discovered, and The New Republic journalist Stephen Glass was fired in 1998 for inventing stories, quotes, and sources.

Editorial Control

Journalists determine not only what stories are told but also how those stories are presented. This issue is perhaps even more delicate than that of selection. Most newspaper readers still expect news to be reported objectively and demand that journalists present their stories in this manner.

However, careful public scrutiny can burden journalists, while accusations of
controlling information affect their affiliated newspapers. However, this scrutiny takes on importance as the public turns to journalists and newspapers to learn about the world.

New York Times

In 1997, The New York Times publicly claimed that it was “an independent newspaper, entirely fearless, free of ulterior influence and unselfishly devoted to the public welfare.” Despite this public proclamation of objectivity, the paper’s publishers have been criticized for choosing which articles to print
based on personal financial gain.

The New York Times has continually been accused of determining what stories are told. For example, during the 1993 debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), The New York Times clearly supported the agreement. In doing so, the newspaper exercised editorial control over its publication and the information that went out to readers.

One of the most famous examples of watchdog journalism is the role that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post played in uncovering information about the Watergate break-in and scandal that ultimately resulted in US President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

Factors Affecting Newspapers

Watchdog Journalism

One way that journalists control stories for the benefit of the public is by engaging
in watchdog journalism.

This form of journalism provides the public with information about government officials or business owners while holding those officials to high standards of operation.

Definition

Definition

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Definition

Watchdog journalism is defined by three points:

1. Independent scrutiny by the press of the activities of government, business and other public institutions
2.
3. Documenting, questioning, and investigating those activities
4.
5. Provide timely information on issues of public concern
Factors Affecting Newspapers

Watchdog Journalism

Newspapers and journalists often laud watchdog journalism, one of the most important functions of newspapers, yet it is difficult to practice because it requires rigorous investigation, which in turn demands more time.

Often journalists are not afforded the time to research the information, nor to hone the skills required to write a watchdog story.

To be successful, journalists must investigate stories, ask tough questions, and face the possibility of unpopularity to alert the public to corruption or mismanagement.

Impact

Impact

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Impact of Television and the Internet

Newspapers have control over which stories are told and how those stories are presented. Just as the newspaper industry has changed dramatically over the years, journalistic writing styles have been transformed.

Many times, such changes mirrored a trend shift in readership; since the 1950s, however, newspapers have had to compete with television journalism and, more recently, the Internet. Both television and the Internet have profoundly affected newspaper audiences and journalistic styles.

Struggle

Struggle

Struggle

Online Readership

Online Readership

Reader Habits

Reader Habits

JOAs

JOAs

Factors Affecting Newspapers

Readership Decline

With newer, more immediate ways to get news, the disconnect between newspapers and consumers deepened.

For nearly a half-century, predictions of the disappearance of print newspapers have been an ongoing refrain. The fear of losing print media began in the 1940s with the arrival of radio and television.

By the 1990s circulation began to decline in absolute numbers, combined with television journalism’s rising popularity and the emergence of the Internet.

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Joint Operating Agreements (JOAs)

As readership began to decline and newspapers began experiencing greater competition US Congress issued the Newspaper Preservation Act authorizing the structure of JOAs. The implementation of JOAs means that two newspapers could share the cost of business, advertising, and circulation operations, but also ensured that two competing papers could keep their distinct news divisions but merge their business divisions.

At its peak, 28 newspaper JOAs existed across the United States, but as the industry declines at an increasingly rapid rate, JOAs are beginning to fail. With today’s shrinking pool of readers, two newspapers simply cannot effectively function in one community.

Reader Habits

Younger generations are primarily responsible for this shift to online
reading. The changes in reader habits seem to be similar amongst both Generation X and Y demographics, baby boomers and older generations do, for the most part, still rely on printed newspapers for information.


The distinction between generations is not surprising. Younger readers grew up with the Internet and have developed different expectations about the speed, nature, and cost of information than older generations. However, this trend suggests that online readership along with the general decline of news readers may make printed newspapers all but obsolete in the near future.

Online Readership

The most significant challenge to newspapers is certainly the Internet. As print readership declines, online readership has grown; fast, free access to breaking information contributes to the growing appeal of online news. Despite the increase in online news readers, that growth has not offset the drop in print
readership.

In 2008, the Pew Research Center conducted a news media consumption survey in which only 39 percent of participants claimed to having read a newspaper (either print or online) the day before, showing a drop from 43 percent in 2006. Meanwhile, readership of print newspapers fell from 34 percent to 25 percent in that time period.

Continuing Struggle

Compounding the problem is newspapers’ continuing struggle to attract younger readers. Many of these young readers simply did not grow up in households that subscribed to daily papers and so they do not turn to newspapers for information.

However, the problem seems to be more complex “than fewer people
developing the newspaper habit. People who used to read every day now read less often. Some people who used to read a newspaper have stopped altogether.”

Factors Affecting Newspapers

Newspaper Chains

Newspaper Chains

Newspaper Chains

As newspapers diminish in number and as newspaper owners find themselves in financial trouble, a dramatic increase in the consolidation of newspaper ownership has taken place.

Today, many large companies own several papers across the country, buying independently owned papers to help them stay afloat.

Since 2000, newspaper consolidation has increased markedly as more papers are turning over control to larger companies. In 2002, the 22 largest newspaper chains owned 39 percent of all the newspapers in the US.

Other Options

Other Options

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Other Options

With the dual challenges of layoffs and decreasing readership, some in the journalism industry are beginning to explore other options for ownership, such as nonprofit ownership.

It is clear that the newspaper industry is on the brink of major change, the
industry will likely continue to experience a complete upheaval brought on by dwindling readership and major shifts in how individuals consume news. As newspapers scramble to find their footing in an ever changing business, readers adapt and seek out trustworthy information in new ways.

Newspaper Chains

Among the 22 companies that own the largest percentage of the papers, four chains stand out: Gannett, the Tribune Company, the New York Times Company, and the McClatchy Company.

Not only do these companies each own several papers across the country, but they also enjoy a higher-than-normal profit margin relative to smaller chains.

Factors Affecting Newspapers

Competition From Blogs

Blogs, have offered a new take on the traditional world of journalism. Blogs feature news and commentary entries from one or more authors.

However, journalists differ on whether the act of writing a blog, commonly known as blogging, is, in fact, a form of journalism.

Many old-school reporters do not believe blogging ranks as formal journalism. Unlike journalists, bloggers are not required to support their work with credible sources. This means that stories published on blogs are often neither verified nor verifiable.

Blogging

Blogging

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Blogging

Bloggers are speakers and writers of their own invention, at large in the public square. They’re participating in the great game of influence called public opinion. Despite the blurry lines of what constitutes “true” journalism—and despite the fact that bloggers are not held to the same standards
as journalists—many people still seek out blogs to learn about news.

Thus, blogs have affected the news journalism industry. According to longtime print journalist and blogger Gina Chen, “blogging has changed journalism, but it is not journalism.”

Factors Affecting Newspapers

Competition From Blogs

Online Writing

Online Writing

Beyond the lack of accountability in blogging, blogs are free from the constraints of journalism in other ways that make them increasingly competitive with traditional print publications.

Internet publication allows writers to break news as soon as it occurs. Unlike a paper that publishes only once a day, the Internet is constantly accessible, and information is ready at the click of a mouse. With the endless space of the Internet, online writers have the freedom to explore topics more fully and to provide more detail.

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Online Writing

Online writing also provides a forum for amateurs to enter the professional realm of writing. With cost cutting forcing newspapers to lay off writers, more and more would-be journalists are turning to the Internet to find ways to enter the field. Interestingly, the blogosphere has launched the careers of
journalists who otherwise may never have pursued a career in journalism.

For example, blogger Molly Wizenberg founded the blog Orangette because she didn’t know what to do with herself: “The only thing I knew was that, whatever I did, it had to involve food and writing.”

Transformation

Transformation

Transformation

Expense

Expense

Factors Affecting Newspapers

Competition From Blogs

Blogs are becoming an increasingly prominent feature on news websites, and nearly every major newspaper website displays a link to the paper’s official blogs on its homepage. This subtle addition to the web pages reflects the print industry’s desire to remain relevant in an increasingly online world.

Even as print newspapers are making the transformation to the digital world with greater or less success, Internet news sites that were never print papers have begun to make waves.

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Expense

The issue is not only that information on the Internet is free but also that advertising is far less expensive online. Despite these challenges, newspapers both in print and online continue to seek new ways to provide the public with accurate, timely information.

Newspapers have long been adapting to cultural paradigm shifts, and in the face of losing print newspapers altogether, the newspaper industry continues to reinvent itself to keep up with the digital world.

Transformation

Some newspapers are also making even more dramatic transformations to keep up with the changing online world. In 2006, large newspaper conglomerate GateHouse Media began publishing under a Creative Commons license, giving noncommercial users access to content according to the license’s
specifications. The company made the change to draw in additional online viewers and, eventually, revenue for the newspapers.

GateHouse Media’s decision to alter its newspapers’ licensing agreement to boost advertising online reflects the biggest challenge facing the modern online newspaper industry: profit.

Beatbloggers

Beatbloggers

Beatbloggers

Factors Affecting Newspapers

Online Newspapers

By 2010, over 10,000 newspapers had gone online. Some smaller papers not only started websites but have ceased publication of their printed papers entirely.

With declining readership and increasing competition from blogs, most newspapers have embraced the culture shift and have moved to online journalism.

For many papers, this has meant creating an online version of their printed paper that readers will have access to from any location, at all times of the day.

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Beatbloggers

The online newspaper is, in reality, still trying to figure out what it is. Indeed, this is an uncomfortable position familiar to many online-only papers: trapped between the printed news world and the online world of blogs and unofficial websites.

During this transitional time for newspapers, many professional journalists are taking the opportunity to enter the realm of bloggers on the Internet.

Journalist bloggers, also known as beatbloggers, have begun to utilize blogs as tools to engage their readers, interact with them, crowdsource their ideas and invite them to contribute to the reporting process.

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